A Travellerspoint blog

Day 12 Nice, Mercredi 18 Août 2010 - Last Day in Nice

sunny 27 °C
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No alarm to jar us awake and I awoke naturally at 8:50 am. Margy was already up and typing on the laptop.

Slowly, I stretched myself awake. Breakfast of tea, muesli, yogurt, small piece of bread and cheese.

Did a little bit of packing as I would need to pack tonite anyways. I just hope that I can get most of it back into the suitcases. I did enjoy my shopping.

An hour after waking we were packed and off to the beach. Water was calmer today and yes, it was hot and sunny again. How tough is that. It's not a wonder that everyone looks happy and relaxed. Life is a constant vacation when you spend time laying on the beach. Of course it does help that we are minutes from the beach and everything else we may need.

We will stay here for an hour or two. I sat closer to the water's edge allowing the waves to roll over my legs. Slept on the beach even though I had not planned on it, it just kind of happens. Read, chatted and just looked around. Pure bliss. Michael used to say that everyone should be allowed to just lay on the beach all day. Wouldn't that be great, at least until one got tired of it.

Left the beach just after noon and went to the market to get some fruit. We bought apricots, nectarines, white and regular. I wanted raspberries and we got those as well. Everything smells so good. You can smell the herbs, especially the basil, the fresh fruit, varieties of tomatoes, ripening before you.

While walking past a store, I stopped dead in my tracks. Déjà-vu peut-être? It was love, pure and instant. A beautiful table cloth, yellow and red with olives. A perfect new table cloth. I also bought 8 napkins to match. I am in bliss over this, thank you Shopping Goddess. I didn’t even know that I was looking for a tablecloth until I saw it.

Even better is that my new table only cost 12€ and is big enough for my rectangular dinner table. A set of 8 napkins in red with olives on them for 14€ to match. All in all a wonderful purchase. Yeah I know I am really excited over this. I was saying to Margy this evening that I am glad I am the kind of person that gets really excited over simple things. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to thrill me and I hope I always stay this way.

Continued walking around and tried to go to Chez Thérèse in the market but she was done her socca for the day.

We then left the market part and walked to Old Nice which is right outside of the market. We went to Nissa Socca, a restaurant we have considered but not gone to, for lunch. Both started with bière each which was pricier here than some of the other places we have frequented. 4€ each and we usually pay 3€.

For lunch I had the Assiette niçoise which contained portions of pissaladière, socca, beignet of courgettes, ratatouille, roasted red peppers and salad. It was 12€ and perfect and exactly what I wanted. Thank you Margy for suggesting this item. Margy ordered the petit farcis niçois which came with eggplant, onion, tomato and zucchini stuffed with ground meat. Also 12€. We also had a carafe of water to keep ourselves hydrated. Great food at this restaurant. Really good service, fast and the place is nicely decorated and clean. Best toilette in Nice that we’ve been to.

Did a bit more shopping of course and went to the Gelateria right by the church we wanted to see.

Fortunately, the church, the Cathédrale Sainte Réparate that we had been wanting to go to, was open. Went inside and this to me was one of the most beautiful churches. It was similar to another one that we have seen and it may have been just the mood I was in, but I could have sat there for a long time. There was a real feeling of calmness and tranquillity. I felt really good being there.

Since it was our last day in Nice, I went to the gold pirate that is always close to our hotel and got my picture taken with him. By now it was nearly 4 pm and we still had places to see and go to. Went to run an errand for Margy and then headed towards the Nice cemetery.
On our way we saw the Acropolis as well as passed the Modern Art Museum. We also passed another unusual building which looked like a concrete box on a stand.

We passed another building that Napoleon Bonaparte slept in. He had resided there from March 27 to December 22, 1794. I had not previously known how much good he had contributed to France. It was because of him that roads were built and infrastructure was created. He also made it so that people could sell books and not charge or pay tax on it. Today there are still many second hand booksellers or bouquinstes set up along the banks of the Seine.

High up on the rock is a place known as Le Chateau which is where the ducs de Savoie built their castle which was torn down in 1706. At the north end of Le Chateau is the famous old graveyard of Nice. We got there just after 6 pm. The tombs are truly works of art with orante and intricate figures and designs and many if not most, were made of marble or slate. We went to the Christian/Catholic cemetery. We later came upon the Israeli one which was located next door but it was already closed for the day. The cemetary is the largest one in France.

We saw La Tour Bellanda which was erected in 1826 in the same location as the former Tour Saint Elme which was destroyed in 1706.

Lots of walking through this park and from the top we could see the incredible view of Nice and her beaches as well as the cityscape that appears in so many postcards and pictures. We continued along the path and then started down a series of steps which brought us to street level.

Walked through the market on the way to finding a restaurant for dinner. We ended up at the O’Palermo, a pizzeria. I had not yet had gnocchi in Nice. Margy ordered a pizza with olives and capers on it. I had the gnocchi with mushrooms and a cream sauce. I had wanted seafood with gnocchi but it doesn’t come that way as it doesn’t go. Oh well decisions. Food was really good and I got my gnocchi fix.

Saw some hip hop dancers perform and then after ice cream, yes another. It was hot, we are on vacation and I had a lemon with Ferrero Rocher in a cup. Margy had cookies and Ferrero Rocher.

Then back to our room and packed and organized. The Hotel Paradis was a great place to stay. Convenient and all the things you would need. Wifi, fridge, breakfast if you want it, a safe, tea kettle, fan, and tv. Great helpful staff and nice sized rooms.

Now laying around now and it is 11:00 pm. Reading up on Marseille as we go there tomorrow. It will be a very early morning.

I apologize if I am a little disjointed in my blogging but the bloggette is tres fatigee and in need of sleep now so bonne nuit.

Posted by Sydney324 14:12 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 11 Nice, Mardi 17 Août 2010 - Monaco and Monte Carlo

sunny 26 °C
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Bright lights, slots and lives of the rich and famous here we come.

Got up just a bit later this morning. Woke up naturally and shortly before the alarm was due to go off at 8:30 am. I had trouble winding down last night and did not get to bed until 2:00 am. Currently 9:00 am and 19 degrees.

Had a bit of a twisted dream just before waking. Buying real estate and it was really sunny out. It was property I had wanted to buy previously but it was changed and much bigger now and much cheaper. In my dream it was super hot and the sun was shining. At least that part is not twisted and welcome.

After eating a quick breakfast we got moving and left the hotel just after 9:30 am. It was just another beautiful day in paradise. Not yet hot, but sunny and warm.

Went to J. Multari where we purchased one chicken/poulet baguette and one pan bagnat with tuna/thon. This would be lunch in Monaco.

Walked about 10 minutes to get to the train station. Options were either bus or train to Monaco. Travel time is much shorter on the train as well as even more comfortable and you don’t have to deal with traffic. It probably took us about 20 minutes to get there. Cost for a return train trip was 6.80€ each. You can’t beat that.

Train was busy and full. We were lucky enough to get seats still just not together. I sat with young couple and baby girl. Young man probably in mid twenties to early thirties sat opposite me. Brooding good looks and he melted when baby came to him and he played with her.

France’s population is quite diverse. You can see that whenever you are out in a crowd of people. Not everyone is a tourist. We were told that 40% of Monaco’s population is French. Part of France’s population is made up of people from West Africa, India, Indochina, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. This is reflected even more in the wide variety of food that is available.

The train stopped first in Villefranche-sur-Mer, then Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Eze-sur-Mer, Cap D'Ail, and then Monaco.

Arrived in Monaco at 10:36 am and then walked along the water towards the Prince’s Palace. We walked up a winding incline to get there. Didn't take as long as we expected and we got there shortly after 11:00. Watched the guards walk back and forth. The changing of the guards would occur at 5 minutes to 12.

We stood waiting from 11:15 and you had to do that if you wanted a good view of the guards at the front of the castle. The crowd thickened quite quickly and people were eager to catch of view of the guards. The ceremony of the changing of the guards was quite special and it was most enjoyable.

Before this I did some souvenir shopping of course. Got myself a great white ball cap with Monaco and a pink crown on it. Also some other souvenirs for gifts.

Margy told me that you are not allowed to walk around Monaco in beach attire. Respect for the country.

After the changing of the guards was completed we finished off our shopping and then went in search of the Monaco-Tours train for the guided tour of the City of Princes. Our cost was 7€ each and it started by the Oceanographic Museum and it would take 30 minutes.

Before the train though, we went to the St. Nicholas Cathedral and walked through it and saw the final resting place of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier.

Now we headed to our train tour. During the tour we would see Place d’Armes, Port Hercule, the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit, Monte Carlo and Place du Casino with its luxury hotels, the City Centre, the Old Town with the Ministry of State, then back to the Prince’s Palace and Cathedral. Had our lunch while travelling on the train.

While walking around we also saw part of the rock garden of succulent plants. This is the biggest rock garden in the world.

We then took bus no. 1 which dropped us off at Monte Carlo. We first went to the Cafe de Paris casino where I spent 5€ on a few slot machines. I spent my next 5€ on the Star Wars slot machine where I won 15€ in a few minutes. You can win up to 500,000€ on the Star Wars slots. Cashed out as soon as my winnings got down to 14.75 euros as Michael taught me to do. Discipline and we had fun.

Margy had a coupon for a complimentary beer and we were able to get two small beers which really hit the spot. Before entering the casino, we had to check in our cameras and carry bags.

All the slot machines are pretty much the same as what we have at the casinos back home. The major difference of course is that they are in French. Lots of variety and there was a bar, roulette and poker on the slots. No problems for me to play on them.

I was lucky enough to get down to having .01 € left on one of the slots and I cashed it out and now have a voucher from the Cafe de Paris as a souvenir.

We also went inside the Monte Carlo Casino and it was not very big. My guess is that the part that was open was just a small part for the tourists. Those wanting to go to the real Casino have to pay 10€ just to get in.

We checked out the Casino gift store and then we checked out all the parked cars around the casino. It was really tough as it was Mercedes, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Bentley, Maserati, BMW, you get the picture.

After wandering around the Monte-Carlo Casino Gardens and enjoying the fountains we started to walk to the train station to return to Nice.

Monaco has a large number of wonderful sculptures. The love of art is evident and supported here. There was much more that we could have seen but we only have so much time and tomorrow is our last day in Nice.

Walked back to the train station and we were back in Nice by about 4:35 pm. Walked back to hotel but first an ice cream. Mine was lemon and Ferrero Rocher.

We got changed and ready to hit the beach and I lay there and slept while Margy went for a swim. After 1 ½ hours we left the beach and went back to the hotel to drop off our things and then head to Old Nice for dinner. By now it was 7 pm.
Got there quite quickly and I was able to effortlessly buy my St. Tropez sandals as I had wanted to get some of these but needed to think about it first. Very nice and in silver. A few more little items and then we went back to our favourite socca place, Lou Pilha Leva, 10 Rue du Collet for socca (2.50€), pissaladiere (3.50€), a quarter carafe of red wine (3.50€), and very tasty moules/mussels (7.00€). Total for dinner was a mere 16.50€. This place has good food for cheap and they are always very busy. You sit at long benches with the crowd.

As we were walking back to the hotel there is a large open square where speakers had been set up and people were salsa dancing to piped in latin music. Wonderful to see as there were couples, old and young and some children as well. I would guess that there had to be about 300 people there. We watched for a little while and then headed back to the hotel.
Blogged until 12:00 am and now off to bed. Sleeping in tomorrow and it will be a free day that includes the beach for sure. Last day in Nice which is so sad.

Posted by Sydney324 15:03 Archived in Monaco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 10 Nice, Lundi 16 Août 2010 - Villefranche-sur-Mer

sunny 27 °C
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We walked to the Gare Routiere and got the 100 bus about 5 minutes before it was due to leave to go to Villefranche-sur-Mer which is from the 14th century. Our trip was relatively short and took about 15 minutes. We arrived shortly after 3 pm.

We got off on Avenue du Gal de Gaulle where we went to the tourism office to get information. This was the centre of town.

Villefranche-sur-Mer has a population of 6,649 and overlooks a natural harbour. It is located at the foot of hills and is in a sheltered port. It is also a naval port of call. While we were there we saw two cruise ships.

Because it was a Monday, the Chapelle Saint Pierre was closed as were the museums in the Citadel. But we could go to visit the Saint-Elme Citadel as it was out in the open and that we did. It was built between 1554 and 1557 to defend the town.

We saw a large amount of polychrome ceramic figurines depicting medieval and renaissance daily life scenes. Turns out that there are about 300 of these figurines. The figurines were unique and detailed with headdresses and flowing gowns for the women. They are known as the Roux Collection.

At the Citadel, movies are shown on the grounds for 6€ and the movie starts at 21:50 each evening. Tonight’s movie is the Karate Kid with Jackie Chan. There seems to be a different movie each evening.

We walked through the grounds and took a lot of photographs of the port which was filled with fishing boats, motor boats, sail boats and two cruise ships. One of the cruise ships was a Disney one Tracey, and at 6:30 pm it played the Wonderful World of Disney song on the ship’s horn.

We looked at the various vendors at the arts and crafts market. It was okay and I much preferred the market in Old Nice and the stores there. Prices and selection were much better.

We checked out the Rue Obscure which has the distinction of being practically unchanged since the 13th century. Those who lived there hid when the enemy ships attacked. This street was on the line of the ramparts and so it was the wall of protection.

At 5 pm we sat at a table right by the water at a restaurant called La Fille du Pecheur. We each had a beer (3€ per biere which is a decent price) and soaked up the sun and our surroundings. All the restaurants had their tables inside as well as tables right outside the restaurant, then there was a road with traffic going both ways and then a pathway long the water where the restaurant had rows of tables. On the other side of this row of tables was a path and then the water. Each restaurant had tables that matched their decor so that you knew right away who it belonged to. This is the case with all outdoor restaurants that I have seen so far in France. There is never any doubt whose table you are sitting at.

Then we wandered a couple of doors over to La Mère Germaine and made reservations for tonite's dinner. First sitting is at 7 pm. This is the only restaurant recommended in my Frommer's book.

I sat and watched the little boats in the harbour and just meditated for half an hour. Margy went off for a walk and got all the information needed for our return trip.

After this we went back into a store we had been to earlier and Margy tried on a beautiful dark turquoise skirt made in Italy, along with some smart silver sandals. She was and will be très jolie in them and purchased both.
We then headed off to the restaurant as 7 pm was almost here.

Here is the history of La Mère Germaine. In 1938, Germaine Halap, a mother figure to the United States of America’s 6th fleet came from the Loire-Atlantique. She moved to Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1925, and opened her restaurant facing the sea in 1938, with her husband Louis Brau. As a city councillor she was charitable, wise, and she welcomed and helped sailors, NCO’s (non-commissioned officers), and officers. She loved them indiscriminately. Dozens of moving and funny stories made her and her restaurant La Mère Germaine famous.

Here is the menu we ordered off of:

Le menu à 41€ au choix (Boissons non comprises)

Hors-d'oeuvres
Soupe de poissons de roche
Tarte Fine de filets de rougets rôtis, caponata de légumes
Gâteau de crabe, dés de tomate, cébette, mayonnaise légère et taboulé fruité
Saumon frais Label Rouge mariné à l'aneth et ses toasts grillés

Spécialités

Fricassée de crevettes au curry et riz pilaf
Palette de la mer à la plancha, sauce anchoïade et légumes de saison
Pavé de cabillaud rôti, crème de chorizo et son croustillant de lard
Pavé de veau poêlé, polenta et ratatouille Niçoise, léger jus de viande(France)

Fromage ou Desserts

Assiette de Fromages
Pâtisseries au choix
Glaces et sorbets

The place turned out to be just wonderful. I had read about them in Frommers and they said that La Mère Germaine’s bouillabaisse is celebrated across the Riviera. We were tempted to have it but it was either la mini bouillabaisse en service unique for 42$€ I think, or la belle bouillabaisse which required a minimum order of 2 persons and cost 72€ each. Next time I think.

We shared a bottle of rose wine, Sainte Roseline which was more like a white wine and was quite nice.

As I said earlier, we ordered off of the price fix menu for 41€ each. Margy had the tarte fine de filets de rougets rôtis, caponata de légumes and palette de la mer à la plancha, sauce anchoïade et légumes de saison. Her first course was perfection and had wonderful flavours. Her second course was very good but the fish could have been cooked slightly less.

I had the soupe de poissons de roche and fricassée de crevettes au curry et riz pilaf. My soup was fantastic as the rich flavours of the fish came through. My meal was served with melba toast, parmesan and a spicy aioli. I was even offered more soup which was surprising. I declined as there was much more to eat. The prawns were cooked just a little longer than needed and the curry sauce was Indian and rich with flavours. The spices were perfectly blended and I got my Indian food fix.

For dessert we shared une tartelette aux pomme avec une boule de glace vanille and four types of cheese. We finished off with espressos and it was quite strong. Hair could grow on your chest from drinking this.

This was undoubtedly our most expensive meal so far and it was worth every penny.

Our first waiter physically resembled the British comedian Benny Hill. I almost expected him to do something silly. Our second waiter was funny and Margy thought he was quite Parisienne. Both were very experienced and used to serving with top quality service. I am sure that serving the rich and famous would never fizzle on them.

While we ate our meal, a dinghy kept bringing people to the shore and they all got off right by our table. A little boy and girl, likely brother and sister were catching crabs just a little ways from us. A couple of singers, each on their own came by and played guitar for tips. For a Monday night, our restaurant was very busy. People arrived by car, boat, taxi and on foot. The atmosphere was warm and happy. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very peaceful and calm place to be and we thoroughly enjoyed our day and evening there. It had all the sights and sounds you would want of a fishing village and port without the noise and commotion.

So very happy that we went here. It seems to be off the typical tourist map and would be a shame to miss.

We left the restaurant shortly before 10 pm and walked about a block or two, then up a flight of stairs which brought us to the train station for Villefranche-sur-Mer. From there it was less than 10 minutes to Nice. Cost for this short train ride a mere 1.60€ each. Walked for about 10 minutes to get back to our hotel.

Before going inside we finally had a look at the Louis Vuitton store right next to our hotel. Louise Vuitton dress was 1600€. Shoes 520€. Crazy but somebody must be buying or they wouldn’t need to have so many stores. If we don’t eat for a month I could buy a pair of shoes. Somehow I don’t think that would be an option.

Posted by Sydney324 15:57 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 10 Nice, Lundi 16 Août, 2010 - Nice Beach

sunny 27 °C
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Today we got up at 8:00 am again. Good sleep but could have been a lazy bum and slept longer. Margy reminded me that I am on vacation and could have slept in longer. I told her thanks but I can do that at home and I can sleep on the beach as well. She just wanted to make sure I was getting enough rest. She's always looking out for me and I'm lucky.

I have had the opportunity to really have lots of time to spend with Margy and it has been a double blessing. The trip and spending time with my friend of some 33 years. Wow are we even old enough to have been friends for that long? I say I am blessed, as I have friendships that have endured through the ups and downs of life and also that I am here in France, finally, and having the time of my life. I am savouring all the smells, sights and sounds that make France, France. She is a beautiful place to be.

After breakfast we packed up to head off to the beach as we had decided last night that today would not be a big trip day but rather beach in the am and then in the afternoon we would go to Villefranche-Sur-Mer.

Walked about 5 mins to get to the public beach right next to Beau Rivage's private one. Just one flight of stairs down and we were there. As I said earlier, beaches in Nice are not sandy, but pebbles. Actually more are rocks but it is easy to walk on in runners.

Just chilling and it is truly bliss. I have a hard time keeping still and laying on the beach, as it does require a degree of that, but I even fell asleep for about 45 minutes or so. I woke up slathered in sunscreen and slowly baking like a rotisserie chicken.

Another perfect day. Beach is busy and crowded but not overly so. Lots of families as well as singles and couples. Some nude sunbathers as well.

Temperature is just right. It is warm and hot but not too much as there is a constant breeze. Planes fly above us enroute to the Nice airport. It seems like there is one every 5 minutes.

Put my feet in the cold Mediterranean Sea as well as sat on the beach and let the waves hit me again and again. I was done when I wasn't pay attention and swallowed a big mouthful of salt water. Lots of fun and oh so relaxing. I could get really used to this. Margy went for a couple of swims and enjoyed herself immensley.

We stayed for 3 hours and then got moving back to the hotel where we showered, ate a lovely lunch of a fresh grain baguette from a boulangerie called J. Multari with our two types of cheese and the beefy tomato. Yummy it doesn't get much better than this. You can taste the sunshine in the tomato and the cheese is so wow here.

Off to sightsee now.

Posted by Sydney324 05:20 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 4 Paris, Mardi 10 Août, 2010 - Giverny and Monet

overcast 23 °C

As we did not have time for a sit down lunch anywhere after finishing at the Musee Rodin, we went to the grocery store, Diagonal and purchased two pre made baguettes at 2.95€ each. Kind of a fast food baguette. Adequate for our needs and I was hungrier than I realized. You do forget to eat when traveling as you become so over stimulated by all the sights and sounds.

Also bought a giant bottle of Pelligrino and it comes in plastic, which is great.

We were supposed to be picked up around 1:30 and our driver from Paris Vision got there around 1:15 pm. He introduced himself as Herbert. Living in France for many years, he is of German descent. He was a real character, charming and personable. He reminded me a bit of the character played by Tim Roth in the tv show Lie to Me but he looked like and/or reminded me of Alan Rickman with a mustache but shorter. His accent was quite the blend and I think it is because of all the languages he spoke.

He was a wonderful source of information as he was most passionate about the history of France. At times I felt that I was on a Social Studies trip.
All good though, as we learned a lot.

We were the first passengers he picked up. Two women were from England and the last group, parents, son and daughter from Wisconsin.

We traveled by minibus and there was a limit of 8 people per tour. Definitely a nicer way to tour in a small group.
Well worth what we paid as we would have had a tough time getting there without a tour.

On the way we saw lots of farmland, cows, sheep and horses. We also saw the amazing buildings most of which were a few hundred or more years old.

Because France is steeped in so much history, it feels like her soul has an unlimited depth. France has really lived. She has gone through strife, loss and renewal. All of this has made her wise. She is all knowing and you can see her smile.

I believe that when you go to a place that is really old, you feel the heart and soul. France is much more than terra firma.

We arrived at Giverny around 3 pm and we would have the gardens, Monet's home and the gift store to visit. Due to meet with group by the ice cream stand at 4:15 pm and then off to see the Museum. We somehow did not find our group and in any event were too tired by then to see the museum.

We left Giverny at about 5:15.
On the way to Giverny, Herbert pointed out France's replica of the Statute of Liberty. A smaller version and designed by Eiffel. Margy tells me that there is another Statue of Liberty in Colmar which is in Alsace, a region of France.

He suggested we wait to photograph her on the way back as we would then have the Eiffel Tower in the background. Amazing and cool picture and we are not in Vegas baby.

Thank you so much Verena for letting me know how much you enjoyed Giverny. I absolutely loved it. The gardens were enormous and the variety of flowers exquisite. I especially loved all the water lilies. I took tons of photos.

We didn't have the best weather as it was overcast and it rained but in the end it was still all good.

Had a short rest at hotel and then we got ourselves out the door to find dinner.

Posted by Sydney324 05:13 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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